Some Conway Stewarts

I haven’t been writing much here recently. My only excuse is that the weather has been so good that the garden has taken precedence. I would repair pens outside if I could but it wouldn’t work out! I haven’t neglected my duties altogether, though. I got hold of some Conway Stewart pens and pencils and here they are:

They were rather in need of work when they arrived. The pencil that accompanied the 388 was missing the clip and clip screw and it didn’t propel or repel. I found a suitable clip screw among my spares and when I stripped the pencil down I cleaned out a considerable quantity of graphite and it worked well again.

The 75 had met with an accident and the nib was quite wrinkled. A while with Laurence Oldfield’s excellent nib straightening equipment restored it to its original shape. The pencil that came with it is not the correct one; it has gold plating whereas the pen is chrome plated. Though the pattern is not exactly the same it is similar and I plan to keep them together.

The Conway Stewart 388, like the 55, retained an older type of design into the post-war period when the rest of Conway Stewart’s product line was more tapered and modern looking. Judging by the numbers that remain available today, the 388 was a market leader. It’s a splendid pen and the rounded profile of the 5N nib makes for an excellent writer.

The 75 fell into the lower middle in terms of price. The chrome rather than gold plating indicated a less expensive pen but the presence of a cap ring meant that it was not among the cheapest. It has a decent sized nib and these pens feel good in the hand. The marbled pattern is very attractive.


7 thoughts on “Some Conway Stewarts

  1. thanks Deb – very interesting. Despite saying some time back that I don’t collect C.S., I seem to have ended up with three examples of the 388, so agree they must have been very popular – two of which include 5N on the nib – though not a clue as to what that means.
    The 55 is a noticeably chunkier pen than the 388, and my only example, in black, looks every inch the executive pen – there’s no doubt that black suits some of the pre 1940 styling, perhaps better than marbled colours.

  2. I think N relates to a narrow nib. Embarrassingly I haven’t a 286 to hand to compare the nibs, but I think the 388 will be the same length but narrower.

  3. have just noticed that there is reference in Steve Hull’s book re the N nib imprint, but having read his words don’t know that I’m any the wiser, but ‘narrow’ sounds right.
    According to Jonathan Donahaye’s site, and contrary to what I had thought, the 388 which looks to have a slightly more modern styling, appears to have been born, possibly, at the very end of the 1930s, and the 55 which I would have put money on as being earlier is, as Deb says, a post WW II war pen.
    Sometimes dating these things depends on the barrel imprint, so looking carefully is important – wish there weren’t so many of them:-)

    1. Paul, if you recheck Deb’s archives you will see I wrote to her on the dating and taxonomy of the 388 about 5 years ago! Just to confirm, the 388 was introduced c1951, a year or more after the 58. This was probably in deference to those who still liked the earlier styling (the 55 having been discontinued by then), and the 388 was to all intents and purposes a 58 in a 1930s style. Regarding the 55, that range started with the 35 in the 1930s, almost identical to the 55 but made in a more interesting range of colours. Wartime led the 35 to be replaced by the 45, similarly sized but with a single narrow band, then after the war this was in turn replaced by the 55, returning to the 3 band configuration but using only the limited range of red/green/blue marbled celluloids, plus black, that were available immediately post-war.

      Jonathan’s website is decidedly dodgy on some dates, don’t forget it hasn’t been updated for many years, and knowledge moves on.

      Regarding 5N and 3N nibs, these are certainly narrower versions of the 5 and 3. I have always understood them to be produced from the same-sized blanks, but formed to a tighter radius to allow for the smaller diameter pens. However, please don’t take this as a definite fact, I have never had enough spare nibs of this type to confirm one way or the other.

  4. Andy – many thanks for the information and corrections – much appreciated. Regarding the No. and letter imprints on the CS nibs, I seem to remember there’s a similar situation on some of Parker’s early Victory and Duofold nibs, though believe those letters are alleged to refer to makers of nibs rather than size.
    Will make a point of reading your contribution to Deb’s archives. You’re right of course about information always being up-dated, so good to be cautious.

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